On Memory, from Buddha and Pythagoras

From Pythagoras (explained by Iamblichus):

"A Pythagorean never rose from his bed till he had first recollected the transactions of the former day; and he accomplished this by endeavouring to remember what he first said, or heard, or ordered his domestics to do when he was rising, or what was the second and third thing which he said, heard, or commanded to be done. And the same method was adopted with respect to the remainder of the day. For again, he endeavoured to recollect who was the first person that he met, on leaving his house, or who was the second; and with whom he in the first, or second, or third place discoursed. And after the same manner he proceeded in other things. For he endeavoured to resume in his memory all the events of the whole day, and in the very same order in which each of them happened to take place. But if they had sufficient leisure after rising from sleep, they tried after the same manner to recollect the events of the third preceding day. And thus they endeavoured to exercise the memory to a great extent. For there is not any thing which is of greater importance with respect to science, experience and wisdom, than the ability of remembering."


From Buddha (translated from a Buddhist sutra by Charles Johnston):

"The devotee, then, who tries for the first time to call to mind former states of existence, should choose a time after breakfast, when he has returned from collecting alms, and is alone and plunged in meditation, and has been absorbed in the four trances in succession. On rising from the fourth trance, which leads to the higher powers, he should consider the event which last took place, namely, his sitting down; next the spreading of the mat; the entering of the room; the putting away of bowl and robe; his eating; his leaving the village; his going the rounds of the village for alms; his entering the village for alms; his departure from the monastery; his offering adoration in the courts of the shrine and of the Bodhi tree; his washing the bowl; what he did between taking the bowl and rinsing his mouth; what he did at dawn; what he did in the middle watch of the night; what he did in the first watch of the night. Thus he must consider all that he did for a whole day and night, going backwards over it in reverse order.

“As much as this is plain even to the ordinary mind, but it is exceedingly plain to one whose mind is in preliminary concentration. But if there is any one event which is not plain, then he should once more enter upon the trance which leads to the higher powers, and when he has risen from it, he must again consider that past event this will suffice to make it as plain as if he had used a lighted lamp.

“In the same reverse order he must consider what he did the day before, the day before that, up to the fifth day, the tenth day, a fortnight ago, a month ago, a year ago; and having in the same manner considered the previous ten and twenty years, and so on up to the time of his conception in this birth, he must then consider the name and form which he had at the moment of death in his last birth. A skilled devotee is able at the first attempt to penetrate beyond conception, and to take as his object of thought the name and form which he had at the moment of death in his last birth. But since the name and form of the last birth came quite to an end, and were replaced by others, this point of time is like thick darkness, and difficult to be made out by the mind of any person still deluded. But even such a one should not despair, nor say: ‘I shall never be able to penetrate beyond conception, or to take as the object of my thought the name and form which I had in my last birth, at the moment of death,’ but he should again and again enter the trance which leads to the higher powers, and each time he rises from the trance, he should again intend his mind upon that point of time.